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Fisheries Board, Rainfed Authority to be set up: PM

Written by: Staff

New Delhi, Mar 25: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today (Mar 25, 2006) asked Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to prepare a Cabinet note for setting up a National Fisheries Development Board and a National Rainfed Area Authority as part of the efforts to double farm growth to 4 per cent and prevent the country from losing the self-sufficiency status in food production.

The proposal on the fisheries board, which would have its headquarters in Andhra Pradesh, would come up before the next Cabinet meeting, likely on March 30, for final approval, Mr Pawar told reporters after the first meeting of the Agriculture Coordination Committee headed by Dr Singh.

The Board, to be set up on the lines of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB) which had successfully carried out the Operation Flood to make the country self sufficient in milk production, would have more focus on acqua-culture, besides the present thrust on marine fishing, Pawar said.

The details of the National Rainfed Area Authority, announced by the Prime Minister in his Independence Day address to the nation last year, would also be finalised by the Agriculture Ministry in consultation with the ministries concerned, including rural development, water resources and environment, besides the Planning Commission.

Pawar said much of the committee's deliberations were focussed on protecting the food security enjoyed by the country at present by meeting the growing demand which was expected to go up from the present 210 million tonnes to 254 million tonnes in the next five years and further to 310 million tonnes in 15 years.

This meant that production would have to go up by 100 million tonnes or by about 50 per cent in 15 years, the Minister explained.

The need for diversification of farming in Punjab and Haryana, where the focus continued to be on rice and wheat despite the looming water shortage and the deterioration in the soil texture, was also discussed at the meeting.

Among others who attended the meeting were Chemicals and Fertilizers Minister Ramvilas Paswan, Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay.

The meeting did not discuss the issues of crop insurance and farm credit due to the non-availability of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Pawar said.

Nevertheless, the Minister pointed out that farm credit had gone up to Rs 1,40,000 crore in 2005-06 from Rs 80,000 crore in the previous year -- a whopping 80 per cent jump. Citing the continued suicide by debt-ridden farmers in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, particularly in the Vidharbha region, Pawar said this highlighted the need for further improvement in farm credit.

''I have been instructed to prepare a detailed programme (for farm loans) for the Cabinet in one month,'' Mr Pawar said.

The Constitutional amendment on the proposed restructuring of the cooperative sector, which played a crucial role in farm credit, was ready and this would be introduced in the next session of Parliament, he said.

In his concluding remarks, Dr Singh told the meeting that the higher Budgetary allocations for agriculture, rural development and rural employment ''should be properly spent'' so that the benefits reached the farmers.

''It is necessary to ensure that higher outlays lead to better outcomes in the form of higher farm production and productivity,'' he said.

Otherwise, ''we will only be pouring money down the drain,'' the Prime Minister said.

Pawar said the crops were not affected by the recent unseasonal rains. Procurement had already begun in Madhya Pradesh and would start in Punjab and Haryana after April 14.


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